CBSN

U.S. Team Arrives in Papua New Guinea

A U-S rescue team with four dogs has now joined the search for bodies and people who may be lost in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

About two-thousand people are still missing following a deadly tidal wave that is so far blamed for 15-hundred deaths.

The massive wave struck following an undersea earthquake last week.

The search dogs are part of the Florida Rescue and Response Center. They arrived in the Pacific nation yesterday. The team is made up of a Siberian husky and three German shepherds. Team leader Art Wolff says the dogs have already uncovered 40 bodies.

On Thursday, aftershocks rattled the island's northern coast. The tremors were not strong enough to create more deadly tidal surges, and relief workers on the Pacific island nation were able to continue treating hundreds of injured villagers, many suffering gangrene.

The gruesome task of body recovery and disposal continues. On Thursday, at least 30 bodies were found washed up on a beach in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, about 25 miles west of the disaster zone, local police said, on condition of anonymity.

At a tent hospital in Vanimo, a town spared by the waves, Australian field surgeons battled an outbreak of gangrene, said Lt. Brad Slater, an Australian army officer. Many patients had been treated at a hospital in nearby Aitape, which could not control the infections.

Surgeons operated on 13 people, amputating seven limbs, including the left leg of an 8-year-old boy, who may lose his right leg as well.

"Some of those people would have died Thursday if they hadn't been brought here and operated on," said surgeon Maj. Paul Taylor, who with his colleagues operated on the injured throughout the night.

Most injuries happened when the tsunami flung people against trees or debris, fracturing bones and causing lacerations. Many people were killed on the scene, while others died in the jungle before medical help could reach them.

Earlier fears that disease may break out caused by people drinking water contaminated by rotting corpses have not been borne out, said Squadron Leader Tony Keeble, an Australian medical officer in charge of air evacuations from the stricken area.

"They are sensible people. They know what is clean water and what is not," he said. "Now, they are pretty much left with the medical problems that they deal with every day."

In the remote jungle region, conditions such as malaria, skin infections, diarrhea, parasitic worms and pneumonia are endemic, he said.

By Rohan Sullivan